By and large, IU is adorable, but to build music on that is nothing short of a challenge.
For the past couple of years, IU’s management has toyed with her natural innocence, and in doing so, they have made musical decisions that were suited for her artistic potential, but have failed to interpret it. IU’s “Marshmellow” is one instance of their failure.
More than being a cute girl though, IU is actually fucking talented too. As such, screwing her over in both the vocal and cuteness departments is a fool’s mistake. Yet, it happens.
To my relief, IU’s newest album, “Last Fantasy“, managed to deliver on all accounts, and then some.
In a few words, “Last Fantasy” is whimsical, imaginative, and beautiful. It comes across very age-appropriate, so you could say that I’ve already bled hearts of joy just hearing IU on a conceptually solid album.
But where “Last Fantasy” brings everything full circle is in the orchestral arrangements. This album is filled with intricate melodies that are gracefully tied in between IU’s voice and the massive soundscapes behind her.
The production is not only great, but entirely inspired. Each and every song plays a role in bringing this “fantasy” to life, and I can’t help but smile as I listen to it.
The lead single, “You And I“, isn’t IU’s strongest, unfortunately. It has more layers of sound and ideas happening at once than it needs to succeed commercially. The tiny specks of “pop” are thus overshadowed by much greater details in the song (like the spooky choruses and Disney orchestration). But as the album progresses, it becomes clear that “Last Fantasy” isn’t as concerned with selling pop music to every fanboy and their mothers as it is with selling a good storyline.
Songs like “비밀” and “삼촌” are easy tickets to IU’s imagination. They are so theatrical to the point that one would start feeling like “Last Fantasy” is one big musical soundtrack, but IU does a good job at reigning in all the fanfare with spacious ballads.
“벽지무늬” (one of my favorites on the album) is a delicate tune that incorporates enough of the dramatic instrumentals without going overboard. The finished product is a sweet moment that highlights the magic of “Last Fantasy” and – best of all – IU’s maturity as a vocalist.
One other aspect of the album worth noting is IU’s use of featured performers. Yes, there are a shit load of them, but IU doesn’t use them as a main focus of her songs, rather as a touch of supporting vocals. One great example of this is “Teacher” featuring Ra.D.
Ra. D, himself a talent, adds a very gentle layer of harmony to IU’s chorus. You know he’s there, but you wouldn’t think twice about it until he sings in full later in the song. The transition of Ra. D from background to foreground during the break is so fucking effortless that you’re not surprised by his appearance, yet not at all expecting of it either. It’s genius.
IU is at her best when she’s not trying to be cuter than herself. “Last Fantasy” is pretty enough to highlight IU’s sweetness as a person while still creative enough to showcase her raw talent as a singer.
The album honestly chases after artistic value more than anything. Perhaps a tad much at times (“Last Fantasy” – the song – is an over-the-top copy of “A Whole New World“), but as a whole, it’s an album worth giving a listen because IU sounds absolutely beautiful (possibly her best to date) and the fairytale orchestrations are breathtakingly gorgeous.